ESSAYóLIFE ONLINE

 Only Connect
By A.J. Weitzer

     I know Iím weird.

 

     When I was a child, I was famous among my relatives for my carefully printed notes.  (Several years later, I became a first-grade teacher.)  As a camper, I was envied because I got more mail than anyone else.  Thatís because I wrote more letters than anyone else!

 

     Years later I traveled to Europe with a small group to study art history.  At each of our third-class hotels, mail was waiting for me.

 

     Iíve always been very shy, but, at the same time, have always wanted to communicate with one and allÖfrom a safe distance.  To paraphrase Descartes, Iím online; therefore, I am.

 

     Anachronistic, chatty letters, or E-mail (I LOVE E-MAIL!!!) are always preferable to disruptive telephone calls.  When inviting a friend over for just tea and scones, I mail a note or turn on the computer.  (I prefer friends with E-mail!)

 

     Once upon a time I had a reputation at Gristedeís grocery store because instead of telephoning my orders, I sent them a hand-printed letter!  And then one day I actually went into the store.  The clerk at the check-out counter called her friends over so that they could meet their eccentric customer!

 

     When I got my first computer and got connected to the Internet, I felt as though I had  entered the realm of Nirvana.  My second computer is from Gateway (yup, ordered from their web page).  Through E-mail and electronic cards (bluemountainarts.com), Iíve reconnected with childhood friends living near and far.

 

     First thing every morning, I read The New York Times online.  Then scan my mailbox for all the free newsletters, magazines, stock reports (HeadlineNewsMail, Slate Magazine, Salon, etc.) that appear regularly.  No more newsprint on white blouses!

 

     Whatís really important to me?  Health and money.  So for the diseases and treatments of the month, I read InteliHealth Online (from Johns Hopkins Hospital), Ask Dr. Weil, Reuters Health, Housecall from Mayo Clinic Health Oasis, and Ivanhoe.  For stock market updates, I go to Money Daily and Street Life (that would be Wall Street).

 

     Recently, I forwarded an exceptionally informative article about the tech stocks from Slateís Moneybox to a friend who was bemoaning the decline of his portfolio.

 

     For grocery shopping, I use freshdirect.com and NYC Shop.  I order Clinique products directly from their web page and drugstore items from drugstore.com.

 

     Greentea.com lets me conveniently buy Salada green tea with mandarin spice, and the Vitamin Shoppe sends vitamins to me after they receive my E-mail order.

 

     Many years ago when I moved to New York, I was considered strange even by New York standards; if I could order something by mail order, thatís how I did it, even if the store were only 12 blocks away.  Yes, I had to pay for handling and shipping, but I didnít have to plead with a surly salesperson to help me find something.  I didnít have to waste time irritatingly wandering around, searching for something that was out of stock or no longer available.  Yes, I am a woman who hates to shop (must be defective DNA).

 

     I make a few dollars here and there as a freelance writer and editor.  If I canít do  the work by computer and E-mail from my home, fugghedaboutit. Yahoo, Google, Lycos, AltaVista,  MSN, About.com, and Northern Lights are my search engines.  (The little engines that could!)  Infoseek for names, addresses, and telephone numbers.  Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com for books, CDs, and gifts.  Levenger.com for anything to do with reading, books, and desk accoutrements.

 

     While researching a book about Russia, I visited the usenet group ďsoc.culture.russianĒ and posted a message on the bulletin board.  A Russian microbiologist at the University of Wisconsin answered my questions in scrupulous detail within forty-eight hours.  (Happiness is never having to ask the librarian, You have no idea when that book can be located?)  Thank you, Vladimir, for the information and your prompt response!

 

     Have you heard of Tangier Island, Virginia?  My parents and I traveled there by mail boatóthe only way to get thereóin the late 1950s.  Read  (esva.net/~sunset/history.htm) all about Tangierís history and inhabitants, of whom almost all are direct descendants of the Crockett family.  For gorgeous photos, go to Condť Nast Travelerís web page, epicurious.com.

 

     When Iím not reading and writing, Iím at the movies.  (Please see 777-FILM Online.)

 

     Today I bought cotton washcloths from the companystore.com and a white slip from bloomingdales.com.  Iím looking forward to creating MyCatalog (a sort of Internet personal shopper for clothes and home accessories) at bluefly.com.  If I canít buy it online, I do without.

 

     Itís true; I am a cyberspace junkie.  (Iím sure that Bill Gates and Andy Grove think about me all the time, so I bought a few shares of Microsoft and Intel several years ago to express my gratitude. Go Wintel!)  Charles Schwab is a good guy, too.  Heís my online discount broker.  But I have to admit, Iím  promiscuous when it comes to my affection for mutual funds, so I frequently flirt with Strong Funds Online, Dreyfus, and Vanguard.

 

     How prescient E. M. Forster was when he advised: ďOnly connectĒ!

END

Books by A.J. Weitzer:

 

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